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Paul O. Williams

Paul O. Williams

January 17, 1935 - June 2, 2009

Paul Osborne Williams was one of the rare haiku poets who knew success in another literary field, winning major awards and critical acclaim for his science fiction. Born in Chatham, New Jersey, Paul was an English professor with a PhD in English from the University of Pennsylvania. He taught at Duke University, at Principia College in Illinois, and at DeAnza College in California before retiring in 1997. He began writing haiku in 1964, and was active in many organizations, including the Haiku Society of America, the Haiku Poets of Northern California, and the Yuki Teikei Society. Paul was widely published in haiku magazines and elsewhere, and coined the word “Tontoism” to describe haiku with missing articles (“a”, “an”, “the”). His work was characterized by a traditional bent which emphasized his modesty but couldn’t conceal his good humor.

Awards and Other Honors: [incomplete list] John Campbell Award for Best New Writer; president of the Haiku Society of America 1999); vice president of the Tanka Society of America (2000); board member for the American Haiku Archives; a founding member of the Haiku Poets of Northern California (HPNC) (1989); president of HPNC (1991-1992) and 24th President of the Thoreau Society [he worked on volumes three and four of the Princeton editions project of Thoreau’s writings]. He helped create the Historic Elsah Foundation in Elsah, Illinois, and was a scholar and Professor Emeritus at Principia College. His book of criticism, The Nick of Time: Essays on Haiku Aesthetics, received a Merit Book Award for Best Book of Criticism from the Haiku Society of America in 2003.

Books Published: The Edge of the Woods: 55 Haiku (1968); The Breaking of Northwall [science fiction] (1981); The Ends of the Circle [science fiction] (1981); The Dome in the Forest [science fiction] (1981); The McNair Family of Elsah, Illinois: Uncommon Common Men (Elsah, IL: Historic Elsah Foundation, 1982); The Fall of the Shell [science fiction] (1982); Tracks on the River (Elsah, IL: Coneflower Press, 1982); An Ambush of Shadows [science fiction] (1983); Song of the Axe [science fiction] (1984); The Sword of Forbearance [science fiction] (1985); Frederick Oakes Sylvester: The Artist's Encounter with Elsah (Elsah, IL Historic Elsah Foundation, 1986); The Gifts of the Gorboduc Vandal [science fiction] (1989); Outside Robins Sing: Selected Haiku (Decatur, IL: Brooks Books, 1999); Growing in the Rain (1991); The Nick of Time: Essays on Haiku Aesthetics (Foster City, CA: Press Here, 2001) [winner of the Haiku Society of America's 2003 Merit Award for Best Criticism]; The Man from Far Cloud [science fiction] (2004); The Day of Strawberries (edited by Paul O. Williams, Two Autumns Press, 2004); These Audacious Maples [tanka] (Xlibris Press, 2007). [The Pelbar Cycle was republished in 2005–2006 by the University of Nebraska Press.]

Selected Work
 
gone from the woods
the bird I knew
by song alone

          for Nicholas Virgilio
 
the bull calf
takes his first steps . . .
the whites of his eyes
 
 
 
new faces in class—
a few blossoms left
in the cold rain
 
the old garden fence
keeps the goldenrod
from the goldenrod
 
 
 
the curve
of her seersucker thigh—
we will never meet
 
a starry night—
all of the sky
going on
 
 
 
   on the window shade
the shadow of a bird
   arrives     departs
 
Hadrian’s wall
the ragged voices of crows
in a hard wind
 
 
 
a cat watches me
across the still pond,
across our difference
 
to invite
winter poems
not lighting the fire
 
 

Credits: " gone from the woods" - Frogpond 12:2 [Museum of Haiku Literature Award for best of issue] (1989); Midwest Haiku Anthology; The San Francisco Haiku Anthology (1992); Woodnotes 15 (1992); [Selected by the poet as one of his favorite three haiku on Dunlap’s TobaccoRoadPoet blog, 3/15/2008]; "new faces in class" - Woodnotes 25 (1995); "the curve" - Crinkled Sunshine (Haiku Society of America Members' Anthology 2000); "on the window shade" - Haiku Headlines 13:6 (2000); "a cat watches me" - Modern Haiku 22:1 (1991); Haiku Moment (ed., Bruce Ross, Tuttle, 1993); "the bull calf" - Woodnotes 22 (1994); "the old garden fence" - Frogpond 5:3 [Museum of Haiku Literature Award for best of issue] (1982); Haiku Path; Williams, In the Nick of Time; Modern Haiku 33:2 (2002); [Selected by the poet as one of his favorite three haiku on Dunlap’s TobaccoRoadPoet blog, 3/15/2008]; "a starry night" - Frogpond 18:1 (1995); "Hadrian’s wall" - Woodnotes 17 (1993); "to invite" - Frogpond 14:4 (1991); all selections also appear in all of the sky: a posthumous collection of the haiku of Paul O. Williams (Red Moon Press postscripts series volume 13, 2009).

Sources Biography: KerryLynn Williams; various online tributes, including The Thoreau Society, the American Haiku Archives, and the Haiku Poets of Northern California; all of the sky: a posthumous collection of the haiku of Paul O. Williams (Red Moon Press postscripts series volume 13, 2009).

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